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Culture and Art
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Reflection of Aesthetic Concepts of Russian Realism in Chinese Visual Art

Su Weisai

PhD in Art History

Postgraduate student, Department of History and theory of art, Saint Petersburg State University of Industrial Technology and Design

191186, Russia, Saint Petersburg region, Saint Petersburg, Bolshaya Morskaya str., 18

516899997@qq.com

DOI:

10.7256/2454-0625.2024.4.70482

EDN:

WDNJAI

Received:

13-04-2024


Published:

20-04-2024


Abstract: This paper examines the impact of Russian realism on Chinese visual art, focusing on how Chinese artists have adapted and reinterpreted Russian aesthetic concepts. The study highlights the role of cross-cultural exchanges in enriching both traditional Chinese art and the broader understanding of realism. Through a detailed analysis, the author explores the reflection of Russian realism's social criticism and humanistic ideals in Chinese artistic practices, and how these influences have fostered new artistic forms and themes within China.The research employs comparative analysis of artworks and artistic traditions alongside historical and cultural contexts of both Russia and China. This approach underscores the importance of international artistic exchanges in creating a more diverse and multicultural art world. The study's novelty lies in uncovering the mechanisms of cultural integration and innovation through artistic exchanges between the two countries, detailing how Russian realism has not only shaped Chinese art but also spurred the creation of unique forms that reflect contemporary societal and cultural demands.Significantly, the fusion of Russian realism and traditional Chinese aesthetics has led to a new artistic direction in China that melds global artistic trends with local cultural values. This synthesis has facilitated deeper cultural dialogues and mutual understanding, enriching the artistic traditions of both Russia and China. Artists have been provided with new opportunities to explore innovative ideas and forms, thus strengthening cross-cultural ties and expanding the boundaries of artistic interaction. The paper emphasizes the transformative power of this artistic merger in enriching the global art space and fostering a more inclusive and varied artistic milieu.


Keywords:

Russian realism, Chinese visual art, Cultural exchange, Social criticism, Humanistic ideals, Adaptation, Innovation, Intercultural interaction, Artistic traditions, Cultural integration

This article is automatically translated. You can find original text of the article here.

1. Introduction

Russian realism as an artistic movement emerged in the middle of the 19th century as a reaction against Romanticism and classicism, which idealized reality.[1] The artists of this period sought to reflect the true face of society, focusing on realistic depictions of the lives of workers and peasants, as well as criticism of social injustice. Russian realism is characterized by a direct depiction of everyday scenes, a deep exploration of human emotions and precise elaboration of details.[2] These works of art often express the desire for social change, arousing empathy and a sense of social responsibility among the audience through the demonstration of life inequalities and contradictions.

The history of Chinese visual art is ancient and has traditionally been based on calligraphy and ink painting. With the beginning of the modern era, especially in the early 20th century, due to the influence of Western culture and significant social changes, Chinese artists began to adopt and adapt Western art forms and ideas. During the cultural Revolution of 1919, when intellectuals called for the introduction of "Mr. Democracy" and "Mr. Science," this also influenced the reformation in the field of art. Especially after the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949 under the influence of the USSR, socialist realism became an officially supported art form.[3] During this period, many Chinese artists studied in the USSR and brought back the techniques and ideas of Russian realism, which they integrated with Chinese traditional aesthetics, creating a unique style of socialist realism with Chinese characteristics.

The purpose of this work is to explore how the aesthetic concepts of Russian realism are reflected and reinterpreted in Chinese visual art. Analyzing how Chinese artists inherit Russian realism and at the same time integrate it with traditional Chinese aesthetics, creating unique works of art on this basis, this study reveals the processes of innovation and localization in cultural exchange. In addition, the work examines how such an artistic exchange affects the development of modern Chinese visual art and its social functions.

2. The main ideas of Russian realism: social criticism and humanistic ideals

Russian realism emerged in the middle of the 19th century as a response to social changes caused by the abolition of serfdom and industrialization. This trend is characterized by a desire for social criticism and humanistic concern for the lower strata of society, presenting the lives of workers and peasants without embellishment.[4] The artists of this direction sought to reflect reality in all its complexity, raising issues of social justice and human dignity.[5] This movement was formed in the context of public discourse about the need for reforms and changes in the country, and it was based on the idea that art should contribute to social progress and education. This trend in art reflected the artists' desire for an honest and unbiased depiction of life, especially the lives of the lower strata of society. The artists of Russian realism sought to show reality in all its complexity, focusing on the truth of the lives of workers and peasants, which testifies to their deep social criticism and humanistic concern.[6] These ideas are reflected in the works of such masters as Ilya Repin and Vasily Surikov, whose works not only criticize social inequalities, but also raise issues of human dignity and social justice.

Ilya Repin, an outstanding representative of this trend, is one of the most famous representatives of Russian realism, whose works sharply criticize social inequalities and express deep sympathy for their characters. One of his famous paintings, "Boatmen on the Volga" (1870-1873), demonstrates the hard work and humiliation of the working classes of Russia. Repin masterfully conveys the physical fatigue and moral exhaustion of the boatmen, which makes this picture a powerful social statement. His other significant work, Did Not Wait (1884), depicts the sudden return of a political prisoner from Siberia, exploring the complex emotions of family reunification.

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Figure 1. Ilya Repin. "Boatmen on the Volga." 1870-1873, Source: incamerastock / Alamy via Legion Media

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Figure 2. Ilya Repin. "WE DIDN'T WAIT." 1884-1888, Source?https://my.tretyakov.ru/app/masterpiece/8415

Vasily Surikov, another key figure of Russian realism, is known for his historical canvases that bring to life important moments of Russian history. His work "The Conquest of Siberia by Ermak Timofeevich" (1895) depicts the conquest of Siberia by the Cossack Ermak and is distinguished by a heroic narrative and dramatic composition. Surikov skillfully combines the accuracy of historical details with a romanticized image of national heroes, which contributes to the formation of national identity and pride. His works not only reflect historical events, but also raise issues of personal and collective identity, which makes him an exceptional historical realist.

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Figure 3. Vasily Surikov. "The Conquest of Siberia by Ermak Timofeevich." 1895, Source?https://my.tretyakov.ru/app/masterpiece/20835

These analyses of the works of Repin and Surikov highlight how Russian realism used art as a means of social criticism and cultural reflection. Through their canvases, a deep connection is seen between the artificial depiction of life and its real social conditions, which makes Russian realism a significant trend in the history of world art.

3. The influence of Russian realism on the visual art of China

In the first half of the 20th century, especially during the time of strong Soviet influence on China, Russian realism began to actively penetrate Chinese art through educational and cultural exchanges.[7] This period is characterized by significant interaction between Chinese and Russian artists, which contributed to the adaptation and reinterpretation of realistic traditions in the context of the Chinese cultural environment.[8] Based on this, educational exchanges played a key role in spreading Russian realism in China. Many Chinese artists traveled to the Soviet Union to study artistic techniques, which allowed them to directly encounter realistic art methods, which they then adapted and implemented into Chinese artificial space. These exchanges provided not only technical skills, but also the philosophical foundations of realism, which Chinese artists combined with national traditions and socio-cultural contexts.

For example, Liu Haixu, who also studied in Russia, brought unique elements of Russian realism to Chinese painting, adapting them to the peculiarities of Chinese culture. His works are distinguished by a deep understanding of both Russian and Chinese artistic traditions. An example is his portrait painting, in which Liu Haisu combines realistic methods of depicting the human face, inherited from Russian masters, with traditional Chinese motifs and elements. This fusion emphasizes not only the external features, but also the inner world of the characters, which makes his portraits especially expressive and significant in the context of Chinese cultural identity.

In his landscapes, such as images of Chinese mountains and rivers, Liu Haixu uses a realistic approach to convey the scale and beauty of nature, while introducing elements of Chinese painting such as the use of ink and paper. These works not only demonstrate his ability to merge two art schools, but also contribute to a deep understanding and perception of Chinese nature through the prism of realism.

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Figure 5. Liu Haisu. "The girl in fox skin." 1919., Source?https://www.artnewsnet.com/2021/07/25/28779/

The work of artists such as Liu Haixu highlights the importance of cultural adaptation of artificial traditions. They not only adopted the technical and philosophical aspects of Russian realism, but also introduced unique elements of Chinese culture into them, creating new artistic forms that reflect both local and global influences. This process illustrates how deep understanding and respect for different cultural traditions can enrich national art and promote intercultural dialogue.

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Figure 5. Liu Haisu. "Mount Huang surrounded by clouds." 1989-1990., Source?https://www.sohu.com/a/457178966_584699

The penetration of Russian realism into Chinese art was not limited to the technical reproduction of Western methods. This influence also contributed to cultural adaptation and the creation of new artistic forms that took into account both Chinese traditions and the modern needs of society. The result was the emergence of a new generation of artists who used realistic approaches to address national issues and express cultural identity, thereby demonstrating how global influences can be successfully integrated into a local context. Thus, the influence of Russian realism on Chinese art turned out to be multi-layered and multifaceted, covering technical, philosophical and cultural aspects. This interaction enriched Chinese painting, giving it new tools for social and cultural expression, and emphasized the importance of intercultural exchange in the development of world art.

4. Cultural Fusion and innovation: combining Russian realism with traditional Chinese aesthetics

Chinese artists, absorbing the aesthetic ideas of Russian realism, successfully combined them with traditional Chinese aesthetics, creating a unique style of realism with Chinese features. This fusion is reflected not only in technical techniques, but also in innovations of thematic expressiveness and in-depth research of cultural values.[9]

Technically, Chinese artists have adopted detailed depiction and a desire for realism from Russian artists, while incorporating traditional Chinese techniques such as the fluidity of ink painting and the dynamism of calligraphic lines into their work. For example, the series of paintings "Horses" by Xu Beihong not only demonstrates the dynamic beauty and strength of horses, but also reflects the conciseness and expressiveness of Chinese painting, combining the Russian technique of detailed image with traditional Chinese methods. Xu Beihong used realistic techniques studied in Russia to more accurately depict the muscles and movements of horses, while maintaining the traditional Chinese style, which shows the perfect fusion of Eastern and Western artistic styles.

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Figure 6. Xu Beihong. "The horse." 1895, Source?https://arthive.com/zh/artists/10327 ~Xu_Beigong/works/286828~Horse_1

This artistic fusion is also evident in the in-depth exploration of traditional Chinese cultural values. Combining the social criticism and humanistic concern of Russian realism with traditional Chinese values and philosophical ideas, Chinese artists in their works explore how art can contribute to social harmony and moral awakening.[10] For example, Jiang Zhaosheng's painting "The people's map" demonstrates the transformation of China's national position through subtle strokes and deep thematic design, providing not only a sense of reality, but also embodying Confucian ideas of social responsibility and reform.

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Figure 7. Jiang Zhaosheng. The People's Map. 1949, Source?https://collection.sina.com.cn/jczs/20110822/135436141.shtml

These works and the process of their creation and perception show how, through technical and thematic fusion, Chinese artists not only successfully combined Russian realism with Chinese traditional aesthetics, but also contributed to cultural innovative development, deepening the role and importance of art in a socio-cultural context. This practice of intercultural art has not only enriched Chinese realism, but has also made a unique contribution to the global history of art.

5. Conclusion

The influence of Russian realism on Chinese visual art has proved to be significant and multifaceted, encompassing not only the adaptation of artistic techniques, but also a deeper understanding of cultural and social contexts. Russian realism introduced new approaches to the depiction of reality into Chinese art, which contributed to the development of painting with deep social content and enhanced human concern. Through the work of artists such as Hu Beihong and Liu Haixu, Russian realism is reflected in Chinese painting, allowing Chinese artists to explore and reflect local conditions and cultural characteristics through the prism of a realistic manner. This cultural exchange has greatly enriched contemporary Chinese art, introducing elements of global artistic practice and contributing to the formation of a more open and multifaceted artistic environment in China. The fusion of Russian realism with traditional Chinese aesthetics has helped Chinese artists not only develop their own unique styles, but also to participate more actively in the international art dialogue, promoting Chinese art on the world stage.

Possible areas for future research may include an analysis of the long-term influence of Russian realism on contemporary Chinese art movements and their interaction with other international art movements. In addition, it is worth exploring in more detail how Chinese artists adapt foreign artistic traditions to express the unique aspects of Chinese culture and social changes in the country. It will also be useful to explore how educational and cultural exchanges between China and Russia continue to influence artistic practices and theories in both countries. Thus, the cross-cultural exchange between Russian realism and Chinese art has not only enriched Chinese art practice, but also provided a basis for further research and reflection on the role of art in a global context. This merger highlights the importance of openness and adaptability in art, which is key to creating a more inclusive and multifaceted artistic environment.

References
1. Angels, Valentine. (2022). Modern realism (A Commentary on materials from the visual arts). Visual studies, 6(3), 233-240. doi:10.54664/mman769
2. Stepanov, A. D. (2022). Transitional epoch in literature and the term realism (1840s-1850s). Herald of St. Petersburg University. Language and Literature, 19(3), 497-514. doi:10.21638/spbu09.2022.306
3. Wang, S. (2022). Modern Chinese painting on military themes: "new realism" and fidelity to tradition. Human and Culture, 4, 46-56. doi:10.25136/2409-8744.2022.4.38497
4. Dikun, T. A. (2012). Metamorphosis of psychologism in the realist tradition (on the example of A. I. Slapovsky's novel "I am not me"). Journal of IGLU, 1(17), 128-134.
5. Pozdnyakov, K. S. (2022). Ilf’s «Zapisnye Knizhki» [Sketch Books] of 1930s as the proof of social realistic discourse formation. Semiotic Studies, 2(4), 59-65. doi:10.18287/2782-2966-2022-2-4-59-65
6. Paine, J. (2022). Review of the book Russia's Capitalist Realism: Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, and Chekhov, by Vadim Shneyder. Modern Language Review, 117(2), 319-321. doi:10.1353/mlr.2022.0052
7. Yang, J. (2022). Interpretation of the History and Life of the Chinese People in the Works of Russian Emigrant Artists of the 1920s–1930s. Philosophy and culture, 10, 158-167. doi:5.10.7256/2454-0757.2022.10.38978
8. Jin, L. (2023). Role of the Repin Institute in the history of art exchange between China and the Soviet Union (1920-1966). Issues of History, 6-1, 188-199. doi:10.31166/VoprosyIstorii202306Statyi13
9. Tsyaomin, M. (2022). Main Intersections in the Approaches of Russian and Chinese Artists to Chinese Landscapes Painting. Culture and art, 4, 33-46. doi:10.7256/2454-0625.2022.4.37855
10. Pingping, Y. (2021). Impact and features of Chinese realism in painting with focus on tradition and modernity. Journal for Educators, Teachers and Trainers, 12(1), 165-172. Retired from https://dialnet.unirioja.es/descarga/articulo/7894895.pdf

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The author submitted his article "Reflection of aesthetic concepts of Russian realism in Chinese fine art" to the magazine "Culture and Art", in which the influence of the peculiarities of the genre of Russian realism on the development of Chinese art was studied. The author proceeds in studying this issue from the fact that at the beginning of the XX century, due to the influence of Western culture and significant social changes, Chinese artists began to adopt and adapt Western art forms and ideas. Especially after the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949 under the influence of the USSR, socialist realism became an officially supported art form. During this period, many Chinese artists studied in the USSR and brought back the techniques and ideas of Russian realism, which they integrated with Chinese traditional aesthetics, creating a unique style of socialist realism with Chinese characteristics. The relevance of the study is determined by the fact that the originality of Chinese art is currently attracting great attention from many researchers and amateurs from around the world. Unfortunately, the article lacks a theoretical component. The author has not done a bibliographic analysis, has not worked out the scientific validity of the studied issues, which makes it difficult to determine the scientific novelty of the study. The methodological basis of the study was an integrated approach containing comparative, historical, socio-cultural and artistic analysis. The theoretical basis of the research is the works of such Russian and Chinese art historians as Yang Ts, L. Jin, Y. Pingping, A.D. Stepanov, etc. The empirical basis of the study was the works of Chinese and Russian artists of the XIX-XX centuries, executed in the genre of realism (I. Repin, V. Surikov, Liu Haisu, Xu Beihong, Jiang Zhaosheng). Accordingly, the purpose of this study is to analyze the techniques and methods of representation and reinterpretation of aesthetic concepts of Russian realism in Chinese visual art. The author highlights the following characteristics of Russian realism: direct depiction of everyday scenes, in-depth study of human emotions and precise elaboration of details. Works of art in the genre of realism often express the desire for social change, arousing sympathy and a sense of social responsibility among viewers through the demonstration of life inequalities and contradictions. Russian Russian realism. Having conducted a historical analysis, the author notes the beginning of the twentieth century as the most significant period of influence of Russian art on Chinese culture, since it was then that Russian realism began to actively penetrate Chinese art through educational and cultural exchanges. This period is characterized by significant interaction between Chinese and Russian artists, which contributed to the adaptation and reinterpretation of realistic traditions in the context of the Chinese cultural environment. To achieve the purpose of the study, the author analyzes the works of Chinese artists of the twentieth century who worked in the genre of realism under the influence of their cultural contacts with Russia. The author notes that the penetration of Russian realism into Chinese art was not limited to the technical reproduction of Western methods. This influence also contributed to cultural adaptation and the creation of new artistic forms that took into account both Chinese traditions and the modern needs of society. The result was the emergence of a new generation of artists who used realistic approaches to address national issues and express cultural identity, thereby demonstrating how global influences can be successfully integrated into a local context. Thus, the influence of Russian realism on Chinese art turned out to be multi-layered and multifaceted, covering technical, philosophical and cultural aspects. This interaction enriched Chinese painting, giving it new tools for social and cultural expression, and emphasized the importance of intercultural exchange in the development of world art. After conducting the research, the author presents the conclusions on the studied materials, noting that the influence of Russian realism on Chinese visual art turned out to be significant and multifaceted, covering not only the adaptation of artistic techniques, but also a deeper understanding of cultural and social contexts. It seems that the author in his material touched upon relevant and interesting issues for modern socio-humanitarian knowledge, choosing for analysis a topic, consideration of which in scientific research discourse will entail certain changes in the established approaches and directions of analysis of the problem addressed in the presented article. The results obtained allow us to assert that the study of the mutual influence of different cultures due to intercultural interaction and the facts of the manifestation of such mutual influence in the subjects of artistic culture is of undoubted theoretical and practical cultural interest and can serve as a source of further research. The material presented in the work has a clear, logically structured structure that contributes to a more complete assimilation of the material. An adequate choice of methodological base also contributes to this. The bibliographic list of the study consists of 10 sources, which seems sufficient for the generalization and analysis of scientific discourse on the subject under study. The author fulfilled his goal, received certain scientific results that allowed him to summarize the material. It should be noted that the article may be of interest to readers and deserves to be published in a reputable scientific publication.